17 June 2008


Summer has arrived, and with a vengeance. A serious vengeance. Last week we were mid 90s, humidity, the works. (Luckily, we don't live in our nation's capitol, which to hear a few people tell the sorry tale, was nothing but misery--misery.) We caved and bought an air conditioner, something that we hadn't even considered when we lived in Madison, for reasons I'm not entirely aware of but that Jeff seems to remember when pressed, and *PRESTO!* our apartment has reached a level comfortable enough for living.

But seriously, even when the heat isn't on, at least in the house, who wants to eat anything warm? This is exceptionally problematic, especially if you happen to be me. I mean, let's be honest. The few foods I don't especially like fall into the category of "cold food", such as sandwiches (I know, I know, OK? It's not like I've never tried. And there are a few exceptions to the rule, but... maybe that's for another time) and cereal. And eggplant. And mayonnaise. (Though, to be fair, I've never made my own, and I think I would like it if I did. And there is that pesto mayonnaise that they put on the BLTs at Café Soleil that truly makes divinity out of that *gulp* sandwich... I said there were exceptions, right?)

So, for the hot days, we've been eating a lot of salad, which, admittedly, is another one of those foods that I'm not terribly fond of--it's such a fussy food! Lettuce(s)! Vegetables! Small pieces! Dressing! Wash and dry! I contend that salad is only good IFF there are the following ingredients: avocado, bacon, eggs, and croutons. I don't necessarily have to have all of them at once, but they certainly help.

The other thing that I've been making, and which is very, very good, and that has been very, very appearing in the heat, is the Peppery Bulgar Salad from Claudia Roden's Arabesque. This salad is a nice alternative to tabbouleh (memories of which linger on in my memory as green sandy substance covered in plastic wrap in my parent's refrigerator--let's remember that I didn't like cold food as a child--that was very, very unappealing). It's one of those no-fail salads that is good every single time you make it (which, probably is what can be said of tabbouleh, as long as I make and it doesn't come from a box--sorry, Mom). And it's very forgiving, too--the amounts of the different ingredients don't matter quite so much. It also doubles and triples like a charm. We like to eat this with sautéed chicken and garlic and spices. We LOVE it. You need to make it immediately.

It's that good, I promise. And this from someone who doesn't like cold food.

Peppery Bulgar Salad, adapted from Arabesque

1 cup fine bulgar
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1-2 lemons
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 fresh chile pepper, finely diced
1 bunch scallions
3-5 smallish tomatoes, diced
1/2 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves

1. Put the bulgar into a largeish bowl, pour the boiling water over it, stir, and leave for 15-20 minutes, until the grain is tender. Conveniently, this is just the right amount of time to prepare all the other ingredients!
author's note: Don't be tempted to add more water since the juice from the lemons and tomatoes will soften the grain further.

2. Add the tomato paste, lemon juice, olive oil, chili pepper, and some salt and mix thoroughly. Trim the green tops off the scallion, then slice them finely. Add them and the diced tomatoes to the bulgar mixture, together with the parsely and mint and mix well.

You may want to make this ahead of time to let the flavors meld, especially if you're like me, and always use more lemon juice than the recipe calls for. Note that this also takes a good amount of salt.

Serve and eat at room temperature.

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